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The best road trips and journeys from Adelaide

Fancy sipping your way through the winelands, rolling through the awe-inspiring outback or meandering through picture perfect beach towns? With these ideas you can enjoy the best of Australia in an easy road trip or guided tour.

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With its thriving restaurant and small bar scene, not to mention packed festival calendar, South Australia’s capital city is as cosmopolitan as they come. It’s also the perfect jumping off point for a proper Aussie adventure, so leave time to explore beyond the bright lights of the city on these epic journeys.


Adelaide to Kangaroo Island

Just a few hours south from Adelaide, Kangaroo Island is a nature-lover’s paradise. Over a third of it is protected and is home to lots of native wildlife like koalas, kangaroos, echidnas, dolphins, rare sea-lions and so much more. The drive to get there is pretty good too, as you pass through the world-famous McLaren Vale winelands before taking a short ferry hop to the island itself.

As it’s the third largest island in Australia, you need at least two or three full days to get a really good taste of Kangaroo Island. With accommodation to suit all tastes and budgets you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to picking a place to stay.

Once you’re there, pack a picnic and drive to Emu Bay on the north shore. The long white sandy beach is lapped by clear waters, and often you have the beach pretty much all to yourself.  The North Coast road to Stokes Bay gives you a taste of the outback, with rugged red dirt and small trails leading off to secluded coves.

Over on the west of the island, Flinders Chase National Park is a must-visit. As well as weird and wonderful rock formations like the Remarkable Rocks and Admiral’s Arch, it’s also home to a colony of long-nosed fur seals.

Wander through the caves at Kelly Hill or walk among a colony of sealions as they frolic and play on the beach at Seal Bay. Once you reach the southern shore you can explore plenty of hiking trails – the Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail is one of the country’s best.

Adelaide to the Flinders Ranges

Traffic-free roads, peaceful bush towns and iconic Outback scenery are par for the course during the trip from Adelaide to the Flinders Ranges.

As you drive north from Adelaide, look out for the quirky community sculptures between the towns of Lower Light and Dublin. You’ll spot works including the Tin Man, a Giant Rat and a Dunny (toilet) as you zip through.

You could do it in five hours, just stopping off for lunch, but a night in the Clare Valley wine region is the ideal way to break up the journey. Swap the car for two wheels and cycle a section of the Riesling Trail, rewarding yourself with a drop of the local fare at the end.

Continue north the next day and you’ll soon be surrounded by the majestic scenery of the Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park. Wilpena Pound, a natural amphitheatre, is one of the area’s stand out natural attractions and is steeped in Aboriginal history.

Go walkabout with a local indigenous guide, book a helicopter swag safari sleeping under the stars, or check in to a luxury lodge for a truly memorable Flinders experience. You’ll see lots of wildlife along the way including emus, kangaroos and the almighty wedge-tailed eagle.

The Epicurean Way

Four of South Australia’s best food and wine regions – McLaren Vale, Adelaide Hills, Barossa and Clare Valley – are all within 90 minutes drive from Adelaide. Although the regions are a short hop from each other, it’s best to do this road trip over at least four or five days.  That way you can sleep over in boutique hotels overlooking the vineyards and sip world class wines from famous names like Penfolds, Jacob’s Creek and d’Arenberg.

Don’t miss a stroll along the McMurtrie Mile in McLaren Vale. This stretch of road is home to four vineyards, two restaurants and a craft brewery and you can easily while away an afternoon wandering between them. When you pass through the Adelaide Hills on day two, take a wander around Hahndorf – Australia’s oldest surviving German settlement – before indulging in a long lazy lunch at one of the area’s stunning wineries.

In Barossa you can visit the cellar doors of Yalumba and take a tour around the Jacob’s Creek visitor centre, head out for a hike with supplies from Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop or keep your appetite for a fine dining experience at Hentley Farm.

Adelaide to Melbourne via the Great Ocean Road

You can drive to Melbourne from Adelaide in about nine hours if you’re in a hurry, but for the true road trip of a lifetime it’s worth taking five days to a week and doing it properly – along the coast.

Starting in Adelaide and heading south, the route takes in tranquil wine growing regions like McLaren Vale, rugged coastal scenery like the Twelve Apostles and the famous 150 mile (243km) stretch known as the Great Ocean Road. There are plenty of quaint beach towns along the way such as Robe where you can relax for the night, as well as world-famous surf spots like Bell’s Beach in Torquay.

Stop off in Victor Harbour for a ride on the traditional horse drawn tram. Dating back to 1878, the historic tram links the town with Granite Island – which is home to a colony of cute penguins. If you fancy combining two epic drives, squeeze in a side trip to Kangaroo Island for a few days. You can take your car on the ferry from Cape Jervis and enjoy close encounters with Australian wildlife and immerse yourself in tranquil natural scenery.

Before crossing the border into Victoria, stop off at Mount Gambier. This extinct volcano is surrounded by crater lakes, and there’s an easy trail around the stunning Blue Lake – ideal for stretching your legs after a morning behind the wheel.

The Ghan

If you’d rather just sit back and watch the world go by in the lap of luxury, book yourself on The Ghan. This passenger train is the longest north-south journey in the world. It runs through the heart of Australia, between Adelaide and Darwin – with pitstops in Alice Springs and Katherine. During the three day journey you’ll watch the rolling green hills of South Australia transform into the arid landscapes of the vast Red Centre before being replaced by the lush tropical vegetation of the Top End.

Make the most of your four-hour layover in Alice Springs with a tour – ride a camel through the desert, visit the Alice Springs Desert Park or simply stroll around the town. Back on board you can sip cocktails and Australian wine in the Outback Explore lounge before tucking into local fare in the Queen Adelaide Restaurant. The constantly changing menu serves fine food representing the different regions that the train passes through. Afterwards, retire to your cosy cabin and get tucked in for the night.

Ready for adventure?

Driving in South Australia is really easy, especially since Aussies drive on the same side of the road as in the UK. Traffic is light compared to here and the roads are easy to navigate. However, if you don’t fancy taking to the wheel yourself, for each of the road trip options there is a range of excellent local operators that will do the driving for you – either on a private guide basis, or on a small group tour.

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